The Fae World: AU Talis: Julia: A New Relationship

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the Fae World: Talis AU: The Walking Dead collection
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“They said you hadn’t noticed, but I didn’t believe them until now.” Carl stepped out of the shadows as I made my way to the showers. “I thought, maybe, it was my age that was putting you off.” He studied me. “I could understand if it did, although this world…” Shrugging, he brushed a hand through his hair. “Everything that’s happened has changed people, including me. I’m not the person I was before things changed.”

For a few seconds I didn’t know how to respond. Hadn’t noticed what? I nibbled my bottom lip, trying to work out what he was getting at. “None of us are, Carl.” I remembered him from before. There had been a time, when he was younger, that I’d babysat him, but if the world hadn’t changed I doubted we would have been as close as we had become. “How could we be?”

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this for a while, but I couldn’t find the right time. Dad seems to be doing his best to stop this from happening. He doesn’t want me to change, because if I don’t change then he can keep pretending things might go back to normal.” He shook his head. “I don’t think it’s possible. I don’t think, even if we could find a way to fix the damage, that things could go back the way they were. Too much has happened.”

“What is ‘this’?”

Carl looked down at the floor for a moment. When he lifted his eyes I could see the determination within them. “Maybe you’re gonna say no. This seems kinda frivolous after everything we’ve been through since it happened, but I want to have some normality in this madness, and I don’t think I would be in the place I am now if it wasn’t for you. You’ve been there for me through so much.” He smiled. “Spending so much time together… it seems almost inevitable that something like this would happen.”

My mind went back to a conversation I’d had with Katie, when she was teasing me for Carl having a crush on me. I’d laughed at her then, told her it wasn’t possible because I was much too old for him to have a crush on, but obviously I’d been wrong about that. Slowly, my own feelings sweeping through me, I nodded, having never thought for a moment it was possible he might feel the same way about me as I felt about him. Pushing that all aside had been the most logical thing I could do. We were friends, and that was important to me. I wasn’t going to let my own emotions get in the way of something that had pulled me through some of the most difficult times of my life. Everyone knew what I was. Had it not been for him I never would have had a place with the group. He was the one who’d convinced them to give me a chance, because being what I was didn’t mean I was a danger to them. There’d even been times I’d managed to help them.

“You can say no. It isn’t going to change anything between us.” Stepping closer, his eyes on mine, he took one of my hands. “I just needed to do this. I needed to get an answer to the question, so I can move on, if that’s what I need to do.”

“We both know your dad isn’t going to be pleased about this.” Ever since Laura had died it seemed like he’d broken, and the man I once knew, once looked up to, was long gone. “He doesn’t trust me.”

“Dad is something I can deal with. It’s not as though he’s pleased about me spending time with you at all. We both know the path he’s walked, and there’s nothing I can do to change that now. His decision is made.”

“I’m sorry.”

“So am I, but sometimes these things happen.” Carl ran his tongue over his bottom lip. “You’re putting off answer the question, Jules.”

Smiling, I shrugged. “I don’t remember you asking me a question.”

“True.” He smiled back. “Asking is harder than I thought it could be.”

“Maybe that means you aren’t ready to.”

“Julia, will you go out with me?”

Hearing those words swept me back to what could have been, had things not changed the way they had. There was another man who’d asked me the same question, a man who I’d lost when the dead rose, and I hadn’t thought for a moment that finding someone in this new world would be possible. I could lose Carl in the same way I’d lost Luke. So many people I’d once known were gone. Jumping at the chance for some normality was something I would have done before. Now… I thought about Andy, and what affect my decision would have on our already strained relationship. When he looked at me I knew he was blaming me for something that wasn’t my fault. Sighing, I raked a hand through my hair. All I’d wanted was a shower.

“Tell me what you’re thinking.”

“We’ve both been through so much since all of this started.” I shrugged. “Us being together isn’t going to be easy.”

“Nothing worth doing is easy.”

“You’ve thought this through?”

“I’ve thought about nothing else for days. I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t certain. I know it is going to have an effect on my relationship with Dad, but I don’t care any more. I just don’t.”

“There is an age gap.”

“Yeah, there is.” He squeezed my hand gently. “Mum would have told me to jump at the chance for any happiness I could find. She liked you. She trusted you. I wasn’t the only one who vouched for you when you found us, and… sometimes I think that’s why Dad feels the way he does. You saved people, but you couldn’t save her.”

“If I could have done I would.” Memories I’d done my best to repress swept through my mind. “I only have so much power, and dealing with that many dead…” Andy was sure they had been sent for me, because of what I was, and he’d told me as much in the days after. That was when I was still recovering from what I’d done to myself in order to protect as many people as I could. Laura… she’d been in the fray, doing what she could, using her own abilities to try to stop the dead. “It could have killed me.”

The way he looked at me told me he knew, and that was another reason he’d made certain choices. “Mum died doing what she would have done if you weren’t here. More of us would have died had it not been for you. Dad can’t see that. He blames you for what happened for the wrong reasons.”

“You don’t think they were sent for me?”

“No, I don’t. I think they came here because we’re a community of the living.” Carl shrugged. “We still don’t know enough about how all of this happened. Everyone has theories, but the dead have risen. All we can do is deal with that as best we can, and it’s not going to be easy for any of us. Dad seems to have forgotten that I lost her too. I knew then I needed to do this. Getting you alone, however, isn’t exactly an easy thing to do.”

“I don’t like being alone.”

“Most of us don’t.”

“Laura, once, told me I shouldn’t say no if something unexpected happened. Sometimes I think she knew more than she let on. Some of the conversations we had before the dead attacked make me wonder if she knew what was coming.”

“She knew things, sometimes. Never enough to be able to stop something from coming, but enough to know it was, and to be as prepared as she could be. If she had known what was going to happen she would have done her best to help Dad when she could.” Carl shook his head. “Losing her was never going to be easy for him. Nothing could have prepared him for losing her, but she would have tried.”

“Yeah, she would.” I remembered the look in her eyes, the way she was smiling at me, and the words she had used. She knew, even then, how Carl felt, even though I was still oblivious. Everything she said was a reason for me to say yes. The things that had happened since her dead were a reason for me to say no. “Life is never going to be easy. Life was never going to be easy, but when you compare what things were like then and what things are like now it’s hard to see where the difficulty was. Now we’re fighting for our survival. That’s huge in comparison to what I was worried about before.”

Carl nodded. “Back then I was worried about what uni was going to be like. I was worried about my grades, and whether I was going to be okay living by myself. When I look back at who I was I see someone who had no idea what hard truly was.”

“None of us did.” I looked down at his hand. When I’d been laying in bed, trying to regain my strength, he’d been right by my side. Had he not been there everything would have been different. “There is no right answer to the question. My heart is saying yes, because my life is so much better with you in it, but my head… that’s where I’m having problems.”

“Mum would say listen to your heart.”

“She would, and she did, but she’s not the one who’s here now.” I thought about Andy once more, and the way I knew he was going to react when he found out I was in a relationship with his son. “I don’t want to make things any harder for you that they already are.”

“Dad and I are on our own paths, Jules, and this is the one I’m walking. I made the decision before Mum died, because he was different even then. Losing her just sped the process up.”

“You are absolutely sure about this?”

His eyes met with mine, and I could see the certainty. “I have never been more sure about anything in my life. We could both die tomorrow. This world is like that, and I don’t want to die regretting the fact I never gave this a try. You and I work. We have done from the beginning. Give me a chance to show you that we can have some happiness, even after everything we’ve been through.”

“Okay.” I smiled. “You have that chance.”

Relief filled his eyes then. “I thought you were going to say no.”

“Sometimes we have to ignore our fears if we ever want to have those moments of joy.” I thought back to Laura. “A very wise woman told me that, and I didn’t know what she meant. Now I do.”

“I have Mum to thank for this, then.”

“You do.”

Letting go of my hand he pulled me into his arms, the way he had done when we’d first come across each other again. I rested my head on Carl’s chest, hearing his heartbeat, a reminder that we were both still alive. When I did he kissed the top of my head. I knew then I was making the right choice, for me, and that was what I needed to do, instead of being afraid that the choices I was making would only end up causing more problems. I didn’t doubt for a moment it would. Andy… I pushed that thought aside. He was a problem to be dealt with another day. Instead I stood there, in the arms of a man I knew I was coming to love, and was so grateful that he cared enough about me to make a choice I never would have made.

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